What happens when the lights go out?

A picture of lights

 By Junior Warden Professor Ian Ryder

What is today’s fastest growing area of business? E-commerce. Here are some basic facts, a mix of global and US statistics – there are many UK ones in the second reference at the end. (references supplied upon request, of which just two of the many used by the author are given at the end of this blog)

In 2020 global e-commerce ran at $4 trillion and this number is expected to grow by 50% in the next 3 years!

In the 2019 holiday season, brick-and-mortar sales grew by 1.4%, while e-commerce grew by 8.1%.

2.05 billion people shop online.

79% of smartphone users finalized a purchase online using their mobile device between July – December 2019 (USA)

Mobile is likely to account for 54% of online sales by 2021, or $659 billion (USA)

April 2020 saw a 200% jump in new mobile banking registrations, while mobile banking traffic rose 85% (USA)

Enough already !! …

Business is about selling goods and services and the key point this blog is highlighting is that the trend during the last 10 years has been an ever increasing drive towards technology- based marketing and sales, and of course, the gathering in of the success fuel for all this – money !!

Before coming to the main point of this blog, the author will tell two true personal stories of the downside of this drive towards technology-dependent business and another from the public domain. The personal ones will no doubt resonate with many readers who have experienced  these kinds of blockhead technology responses to real life problems. (in full realisation that personal experience is not exactly ”research” as such)

One of the most striking things that the author experienced during our global incarceration was dear old o2, who twice closed him down for a week, bar the occasional short period when his phone went crazy, to “improve” his service and  since they did it he is still  often stuck without a signal….

One day, we also had a power cut. The author had to drive a couple of miles to get a mobile signal (the phone system was down of course). When he got through to the Emergency Service to fix his power, they said OK, the engineer will contact you to confirm the visit. “How?” he asked ?, “by your mobile phone”…but he had just explained he had to drive 2 miles to get a signal so he can’t be home and receive his call”….”well that’s our system, but never mind  he will send you a text as well…but if you don’t respond he won’t come”!!

Would you hire this person ?

This experience and many more like it from conversations with friends and colleagues, caused the author to think  even more about the subject of “What happens when the lights go out?”

We know that all current cyber-security is moving to 2-level (min) security for banks, retailers etc, even service providers…but what if you can’t receive or respond to their “Security Code”?

How will your marketing / sales programme work without being able to either deliver, or handle, all your well planned programmes??

The author is in the process of writing a much fuller paper around this, but it just occurred that you may find it at least interesting to reflect on what is a very real issue, that in his own opinion is a serious risk factor being largely ignored at everyone’s peril.

And in case you don’t believe it – this has been a challenge for many years, but is getting worse as we depend more and more on cyber-security-driven “jobsworth” ideas, and drive ever harder down the technology marketing road.

At 1.33pm on August 14th 2003 New York had a power outage which took out huge swathes of the North East. All cellular coverage was shut down, 400 flights were cancelled, 3 deaths and… 3,000 fires from use of candles! It cost an estimated $5bn…

As Thomas Reid said in his “Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man” in 1786:…. “You are only as strong as your weakest link.”!

Despite many governmental reviews and programmes around the world, have we really made any progress?

And at our own level of marketing and trying to make sure we have some resilience in our own planning, we wonder if we ever consider this in our “risk analysis” scenario planning? Any of your views on this topic will be gratefully received.:


About the Author

Professor Ian Ryder is a Liveryman and Junior Warden of the Worshipful Company of Marketors and is visiting Professor at Cranfield University,  at Stockholm School of Economics in Russia and Thunderbird Business School, Arizona